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Job pays $178.08 an hour

DeBrum not happy with overseer’s pay

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Job pays $178.08 an hour

This photo shows part of the landscaping at the 120 Bypass and Highway 99 interchange.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED May 14, 2013 2:08 a.m.

Your federal tax dollars funneled through the City of Manteca are paying Charlie Halyer $178.08 an hour and his fellow worker $144.88 an hour.

The two are resident engineers. But they aren’t being paid that rate to make sure a freeway bridge is built safely. Instead the Caltrop employees are being paid to make sure trees and shrubs planted along the 120 Bypass corridor and part of Highway 99 get enough water.

“It’s ridiculous,” said Manteca City Councilman Steve DeBrum.”I’ve got to be honest. I’m not impressed with what I see out there. It certainly isn’t up to standards we’d insist upon in our own house.”

The contract addendum approved last week by the city council covers 720 additional days of construction management for plant establishment that ends in February 2015. It comes to $36,385 bringing the overall contract for overseeing the plant management from the original planting to $211,385. The two will spend an average of 3.45 minutes day through February 2015 in terms of time they devote to checking on the condition of the trees and shrubs to make sure they aren’t dying from insufficient water being applied by a separate contractor.

DeBrum is of the opinion the reason the trees planted three years ago in many cases aren’t bigger and healthier looking is because they weren’t watered enough in the initial years they were in the ground. The sycamore trees planted by the city at Woodward Park, as an example, were the same size initially as the freeway trees but got to about a third of their current height within three to four years due to aggressive city watering efforts.

DeBrum, who has questioned costs associated with the $3.7 million project since its inception, brought the fine print of the contract up at last week’s council meeting. Ultimately the council adopted it since by law federal money is being used then federal prevailing rates for construction management services for highway projects must be paid regardless.

“Even if it isn’t our money we should make sure that it is spent wisely,” DeBrum said.

Under federal law, though, there wasn’t much the council could do since they accepted federal stimulus funds for the project. All of the money for the additional construction management is coming from the federal money the city received.

And while Caltrans will take over maintenance of the trees and shrubs once the establishment period ends, DeBrum said it should have been done better.

While the freeway corridor landscaping upkeep is on Caltrans’ dime, the maintenance of the landscaping at the Yosemite Avenue and Highway 99 interchange will be on the back of Manteca taxpayers. And DeBrum doesn’t like what he sees that Manteca will end up maintaining.

He pointed to excessive weeds as well as trees and shrubs that he said appear to be dying or at least not growing healthy. At the same time the sidewalk on the southeastern side is routinely covered with dirt or mud - depending upon the weather - that is flowing off the area that was landscaped.

DeBrum said the maintenance standards don’t even come close to what the city has in place for various landscape maintenance districts throughout Manteca.

The work the construction management workers are overseeing is part of a $1.4 million contract awarded to landscape the interchanges on Highway 99 at the 120 Bypass as well as Yosemite Avenue.

That is in addition to the $2.3 million landscaping project that stretches from Austin Road to French Camp Road on the Highway 99 corridor and from Highway 99 to Interstate 5 along the 120 Bypass corridors.

The two federal stimulus funded projects represent the biggest landscaping venture ever undertaken at one time along freeway corridors in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. The money could only be spent for transportation enhancement or landscaping efforts based on federal stipulations.

Ultimately the number of trees being planted along freeway corridors passing through Manteca will hit 7,100. To put that in perspective, there are 7,600 city-maintained street trees in all of Manteca plus 8,801 trees in the city’s 50 parks that includes the golf course and along the Tidewater Bikeway system.

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